Modeling a prototype locomotive. Sources?

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by NIevo, Feb 7, 2008.

  1. NIevo

    NIevo Member

    Well after getting back into the hobby recently I have a much greater desire to model my locomotives and rolling stock (mainly engines though) to better represent the prototype. Problem is I'm having a hard time finding good photo's of the exact engines I have. What is everyone else's sources for finding good prototype photo's? So far I have used and any other good ones out there? You think manufacturers would choose more popular and photographed units for there modelswall1
  2. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    What is the prototype you are trying to match? That would be good information to start, as (for example) an NYC Hudson has different details - large and small - than a CPR Hudson.

    Poosible sources of info:

    - many railroads have an historical society
    - books
    - drawings from MR, RMC, other magazines
    - in addition to the web sites you listed, has a huge collection of pictures
    - Yahoo or other internet groups specific to your railroad

    The manufacturers do choose popular locos, but are often limited to how much they "customize" each model for particular roads. Therefore you get (for example) USRA "generic" designs lettered for a number of roads that in real life built their locos slightly different than the standard.

    Tell us more specifically what you are trying to do, and I'm sure you'll get more info.

  3. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    I think it is important to designate what "modeling a prototype locomotive means".

    This can mean matching details with a general feel for a railroad, matching them to a wheel arrangement's details on that railroad, matching details to a specific class, matching details to a specific class within a time frame, to matching details to a specific locomotive at a particular day.

    The best example of locomotive specific detail modeling would be models of the Rio Grande Southern 2-8-2 455 in its post-wreck can find this by googling rgs 455.

    Modeling a class in a time period would be like modeling the NKP L-1b 4-6-4s with elephant ears...all four close enough it would take an intense study with blueprints and a digital caliper to detect an issue.

    Modeling a specific wheel arrangement is similar to modeling a class. This would apply to using a P2K/Bachmann nkp 2-8-4 to represent any number...even though there were small difference between the classes.

    Modeling to represent a railroad could be like Rivarossi's C&O is an NYC 4-6-4 with a C&O front on it. It can pass a casual inspection, but probably not if a picture is readily available. Another example of this is adding illuminated number boards to USRA models to appear like NKP engines.

    The other type would be like using an IHC 4-6-4 as a C&O 4-6-4. It looks horrible to anyone whom has any idea as to what the C&O 4-6-4s looked like. "Prototype" does not belong in the same sentence as it...yet some people are still quite happy to have a 4-6-4 that says C&O...and hence why IHC still sells them. (how many of the imaginary 2-6-4s did Lionel sell?)
  4. coachC

    coachC Member

  5. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

  6. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    One thing for the OP to keep in mind is that there are a lot of model trains that have no real-world prototype: you can get models in the Santa Fe "Warbonnet" scheme of locomoties Santa Fe never owned, and the multitude of "Dockside" 0-4-0 models trundling about come in a plethora of roadnames other than the one railroad that used the actual locomotive. And, of course, many model locomotives aren't based on any particular prototype, but are instead intended to be a "typical" type that don't represent any particular locomotive. You won't find prototype photos of those locos, because of course they don't exist.

    How I do it: I start with photos of the railroad I'm modeling, and use the photos to drive my modeling, rather than the other way around. I'm no great shakes as a modeler/scratchbuilder, but I do it like this: First, I pick a locomotive to model, and look for documentation of that locomotive--from books, photo collections, or, in some unique cases, if the locomotive is still around I can visit it. Photos and other examination will tell me if there is anything unusual or distinctive about that particular engine as opposed to others of its type. Railroad museums and archives are useful for this purpose. Thanks to the World Wide Web, in addition to railfan sites there are also academic/history sites which can provide useful looks at locomotives, as well as stations, industries, and other things that often don't get enough direct attention from railfans trying to get a photo of the engine. But sometimes it's just really nice to be able to get a close look at an actual photo, instead of just a JPEG.

    Next, I look for commercial models similar to what I'm trying to model. Is the commercial model close? If not, what modifications do I have to make to get it to match?

    When it comes to actually modifying a locomotive, I am definitely okay with "close enough" rather than precise modeling. I'm not out to impress the micrometer crowd, I just want something that looks good enough to pass muster at casual inspection. I try to get the paint job right, adding details that will carry the flavor of the locomotive (like air horns, lighted number boxes, etc) but I don't worry about exact matches for paint color or precise detail matches. Close counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and scale modeling that isn't intended for contests.
  7. nkp174 mentioned Google, and I agree, sometimes it's really useful to take a step back from the railroad picture sites & look at a wider picture. I don't know if you're modelling steam or diesel, but there's a tone of info & pics out there. Whenever I buy a prepainted / numbered model (and I do some research first, to make sure it existed as such), searching by reporting mark and road number usually turn up info, and I can find a lot more by searching for reporting mark and locomotive type, i.e. UP 625 or UP GP38-2 - or even UP 625 GP38-2; you'll see a bunch of pics of the Athearn model, and a bunch of pics of the proto, spanning many years (as indicated by different painting details and varying weathering).

  8. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!

    I disagree. often, they don't post pictures that would allow you to see all the detail.

    the BEST site is Railroad Picture Archives.NET

    It is much easier to search, and the photos are all grouped together, making it ridiculously easy to find a particular unit.

    Railpictures has a crappy search ability, and often time, if you just change the spelling of a locomotive (as in typing in E60 instead of E60CP) you'll get a billion other photos you wouldn't otherwise find. Also, forces you to search through all the pictures, and makes it tough to find many of a particular unit (this is again in part due to the super specific searchs on railpictures don't pick all photos because someone may have entered a spelling or name wrong).

    you will find steam here.

    From your other posts, I'm going to go out on a limb and guess you are modeling UP 2040, which is currently UP 540. there are no pictures of it as 2040, but three pages worth of 540.

    Pictures of UP 540
  9. ed acosta

    ed acosta Member

    Jetrock hit it on the nail. Most manufacturers will put any road name on a model. I happened to have bought a Pennsy 2-10-0 with Southern Pacific lettering back when I was a teen.

    What is your goal? Are you modeling a specific road and trying to find locos the road has used, or do you have an assortment of locomotives painted and lettered for different roads and simply want to repaint, if necessary, to match the road that originally ran them? (Example, returning a Santa Fe 0-4-0 Dockside back to its B&O scheme.)

    Let us know. Give us a photo of your model and let us help find the original!

  10. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    Be careful: You can drive yourself crazy and right out of the hobby if you start to nitpick every detail. You will wind up spending too much time researching and not enough time actually doing anything. You need to find the place where you can say something is "good enough" and be careful to not cross that line.

    I know where you are coming from. I've got an old southern pacific athearn GP-38 that I bought over 10 years ago. It does not belong in the era I am currently modeling, but I would like to keep it and detail it nonetheless, because detailing a diesel or two is appealing to me. Just the other day, I simply typed in the railroad name and the road number and the word "photo" into google, and I came up with several pictures of that exact engine. Now, I have examples of the major details I need to add (a snowplow, anticlimber, and air conditioner) and the type of weathering that needs to be done. And then there are the things that I am just gonna have to live with - the athearn has a shorter fuel tank than the prototype.

  11. NIevo

    NIevo Member

    Sorry I wasn't more specific about the exact model I'm trying to find, It was more a generalized question about the best places to find prototype photos. The 2 Im looking at right now are UP GP38-2 #2040 and BN #2151. Like green_elite_cab said, plenty of new #540 photos but none as the previous number.

    I guess the path Im more then likely going to take is modeling the details for my specific time frame, late 70' to early 80's, rather then for the specific prototype #. It's just hard to find good photos that show the entire engine you are modeling, usually its a front, low down, angle shot, or a shot with it coupled to other engines that block alot of the details.
  12. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    Wise advice. Rivet counting is fine if you enjoy it...there is nothing wrong with meticulously detailed models...but armchair rivet counting is not only detested by many, but it also prevents you from getting any real joy out of the hobby. You don't build what you want to build...and no one likes a snotty rivet counter making a huge deal out of something you've worked very hard on to get it the way YOU want it.

    For the passenger car thread linked to in my sig, I've wasted soooo much time on thinking about many pointless details. I started the frame 1 year ago. The sides last summer. What slowed me down? I spent too much time researching for non-existent answers and trying to find the perfect method rather than a method. I found that the perfect method is far easier to see after attempting less than perfect methods :mrgreen:
  13. MadHatter

    MadHatter Charging at full tilt.

    The BEST thing to do is go on Field trips, use Wikipedia/ Google and visit here often.
  14. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

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